Posts Tagged ‘Stories’

We all know how daunting the writing world can be. With stiff competition and a limited selection of publications, it sometimes seems like the world will end before I’ll get anything published (and at this rate, even if we make it past December 21st, I may still see the apocalypse before I see my work in a magazine).

I’m here to offer some encouragement today. It seems to me that too many of us, as writers, focus on what’s wrong with each other’s writing, rather than congratulating each other on a job well done. I’m guilty of it. I didn’t do it to be mean or spiteful, I only gave the open and completely honest opinion I would have wanted, were it my work. While it’s good to be forthcoming on mistakes and parts of stories that just don’t “feel right”, we need to focus a little more on the good, the things that did “feel right” and the things that captured our imaginations.

Here’s what I suggest. Today, while posting, reading others blogs, or whatever you all do on here, take a few extra minutes to find something you really enjoy on some one else’s blog. Leave them a comment, be specific, tell them exactly what you loved about the post (or story or poem or whatever). If each and every one of us were to do this every other time we logged on here, in a matter of a week, many would receive a serious ego boost.

Too long this field has been fiercely competitive, and sometimes down right mean and spiteful. If you would all take a moment to brighten someone’s day, you may be surprised who will do it for you as well.

I’m aiming to put a smile on everyone’s face. Let’s see if it works.

If you think you can’t write, know that you can. All it takes is a pen, paper, and a vocabulary. You think you need some schooling first? Think again, countless authors have foregone college and made amazing careers for themselves. I can’t say that schooling isn’t important, but if you find that you can’t afford it, know that there are ways for you to increase your vocabulary, learn writing skills, and edit like a pro.

For those of us working on our fist novels (and mine’s admittedly not really my first, but my first in this genre, second total), have patience. I know I’ve had a hard time with that. A novel will not write itself over night. It takes time, and even some of the most proficient writers will take a year and a half to two in order to finish a novel. Be patient with yourself, as well as your story. Think of it as a seedling. Just a tiny sprout, still half in its seed shell, bright green in stark contrast to the rich dark dirt. You must water it, fertilize it, give it enough light, and make sure the temperature is warm enough. Much as a tiny sprout will one day turn into a lush lilac tree, weighed down with gorgeous pink-purple blossoms, your novel idea will one day turn into a voluminous and endearing tale of greatness. There are so many different things to consider and keep track of when writing a novel, it’s no wonder it takes so long, and for the beginning writer, this can take twice as long. Don’t worry about the people nagging you, asking when your book will be done so you can sell it and make the big bucks already (my brother-in-law is extremely guilty of this). None of them truly understand how hard you’ve been working, and how much actually goes into a novel. Most people think writing is easy. They say, “I could write a book in a month, and it’d be good.” If they were to actually sit down and begin planning the novel out, they may begin to get the idea that it’s a lot more work than it looks, but it’s not till you’re about half way, that it feels (for me at least) you’re losing momentum. Tell those people that if they think they can write a book in a month, go right ahead. Don’t let the mountainous work ahead of you get you down. Take your time, break it down into smaller workable pieces, and one day it will be done. Regardless of what you initially planned to do with your novel (so far as publishing), know that it is perfectly fine to write for yourself. Just because you spent all that time and aren’t trying to publish doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or that it was a waste of time. When you finish your novel, look back at it and see how far you’ve come. I swear it’s impossible to write a novel without learning something, anything, about the craft. In fact it’s likely that you’ll learn a LOT.

Writing is a lonely task. We have no encouragement, no cheerleaders, no one there to hold our hand and tell us what has to be done to get where we want. Writers are often lost in the dark, with only a small pen-light (like my pun? :D) to illuminate the way. We must feel around for ourselves, find our path, and when it’s laying before us, beckoning us towards our future, our destiny, we cannot turn away. We must press on, in the face of adversity, in the face of negativity and impatience, we must stay on our trail. If we come to a dead-end, we must blaze the trail from there on out, and one day, we WILL make it. We WILL be everything we dreamed and more.

Keep your head up. Keep reading and writing and exploring both the known world and the uncharted depths of your own imagination.

Who knows, you could be the next great novelist (or poet or essayist or what ever you aim to be).

Comment, please. Or comment on someone else’s post, and put a smile on their face.

Everyone has heard a legend or two in their day. Probably more, without realizing it. But does anyone realize just how important these stories are for our society?

Besides cautionary tales, legends have been passed down for years to explain the unexplainable, something we as humans are constantly trying to conquer. Before science, before math, and way before technology as we know it, legends were the stories of our origins. When mankind looked up at the stars and wondered at our own importance in this huge, sometimes frightening world of ours, the legends passed down by our ancestors were there to comfort and to give importance to our time spent here.

While legends have become slightly outdated in recent years, due to the ever shrinking world around us, they can still prove useful. I am constantly looking for fresh takes on old legends, and monsters I’ve never heard of.  They prove useful for story ideas.

I’m a big fan of cryptozoology. I follow the Big Foot and Dogman legends through online research, as well as documentaries, TV shows, etc. Once while watching a documentary in which a group of men searched for Big Foot, these men found someone with an extraordinary story. It captivated me, and I paused the show in order to write down the basic story line of what this man claimed happened to himself and his friends.

I kept the outline in my notebook for about half a week, before I’d managed to re-work it into a masterpiece of my own. The ending piece is a story that I feel I can be quite proud of.

While the story might still be barely recognized by its originator, it’s unlikely, being that I changed the characters and some details. I titled it: The Colorado River Beast. Once I print out a manuscript, I’ll be ready to send it out, and I guess we’ll see what the magazine’s fiction editor will think of it.

I’ve also done this with a legend that originated from Lake Erie, of the Great Lakes. There is the story of a black dog that fell overboard during a storm, rather than help their canine friend, the crew made sport of the dog trying to navigate the rough waters. Finally the dog died, and ironically, its corpse ended up stuck in the locks the ship tried passing through, making them stop to remove the body. Later, the dead dog supposedly came back to the ship, leaping on board, running across to the other side where it jumped off into the water. Shortly after the ship sank. It’s said that the dog will appear on board a ship that is going to run into trouble or sink.

I loved this legend, and managed to work it into the story of an old man named Johnny who claimed to have known and befriended the black dog before its death and revenge. The narrator tells the story in his own quirky way as he cooks dinner for a group of hungry fishermen onboard a large fishing boat.

This story turned out wonderfully as well, of course with my own details and changes added in. It’s also just about ready to be sent out. I was thinking about re-working a bit of the end, but I’m still not sure about that yet.

And you all (should) know another legend I have written about. The local, Michigan legend of Dogman. My story, titled (comically) Not Another Dogman Story (Well, it was supposed to be funny any way.),  is much more loosely based on the legends and stories I’ve heard. The structure and storyline of this one was all me. However this one I wasn’t quite content with. I’d written it first on Facebook, wanting to share some of my work with some friends and family. It took me a while to finish it, and in the end I’d written it in three sections. When I transferred the story onto my WordPress account, I made a few slight changes, mostly in spelling and grammar. Not Another Dogman Story was written for instant publication, online that is. I’d never had any intentions of selling this one, since no publication would want to run a story already easily available online.

The reason I’m writing this is because just yesterday I did hours of research on legends, trying to find some inspiration (not that I really need any, I’ve got stories to re-write and edit still, but I’m always on the look out for new ideas and fresh inspiration).

I found a few stories the piqued my interest. Like that of the Mole People, living in the sewers and abandoned subway tunnels beneath Manhattan. They’re not mutant freaks like everyone thinks, just homeless folks and outcasts of society who have come together to create their own communities, far away from the abuse and rapes that often happen in the homeless shelters in a large city like Manhattan.  There was also a true story about a family of about 200 people, all descendants of a prostitute that settled in the New York area after leaving Europe. It was said that due to exposure to syphilis, this woman passed on a deformity that showed in nearly every of her male descendants, fused fingers and toes, giving what has been called a “claw-like” appearance. This entire family was shunned, and after years of this, they banded together and made a pact not to marry or have children, so that they could not pass on their deformity. In short, they chose to exterminate their entire family, and not a single descendant of that family tree is alive now (or so the website told me). Today, something so extreme would never happen, due to advances in surgeries and such, but a period story could be brewing in my future with this one. I found it intriguing. These stories however, while strange, are actually true. I found them on a website about weird but true things in America, I wish I could remember it so I could cite it.

Any way, I just wanted to share with you all how legends are not only important, but invaluable to the horror/fantasy fiction writer.

Know any great legends? Share, please. I’ll try to think of a good one I can remember and post it in the comments. I’d love to hear some new ones though. And who knows, the one you post might end up in a story of mine.

I’d like to look at the importance of character names today.

Some may think that a name’s a name, right? Or “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. No. Wrong, wrong, wrong (in literature).

Your characters names should in some way, shape, or form, reflect notable characteristics they have. The best way to have a plethora of names at your fingertips would be to buy a name dictionary or a baby name book. Mine’s called The Name Dictionary by Alfred J. Kolatch, and consists of both modern english (modern as of 1967, when it was written) and hebrew names. Besides just lists of names, this book also provides a background or definition of the name. (Or, if you don’t feel like spending the cash on another book, use baby naming websites, they are extremely useful and often will provide background on the name as well.) This is not exactly necessary for naming characters, the definition doesn’t have to match the character so much as the sound or the effect the name has on the mind should correlate.

Take for example, Stark, the villain from Stephen King’s The Dark Half. Stark has a rough, tough, brusque feel to it, instantly making us think: menace. I’d provide the definition in my name dictionary, but there is no Stark in there.

Say your character is older, a great place to start looking for these types of names would be with grandparents and older relatives. Throughout history names have come and gone in the sense of popularity. When I was growing up, there were more Jessicas, Heathers, and Lauras than you could imagine, and the same went for the masculine Tylers, Stevens, and Jesses. Though back when my Mom was younger, Stephanie was a popular names. Now days, it seems just about anything goes for a name (though it seems to me that you’d be hard pressed to find a Tyler or Heather younger than twelve). I wouldn’t be surprised if some “super star” named their kid “Spoon”, hell, you never know. The abstract and obscure names are hot right now, and soon enough it’ll be a thing of the 2010’s and the next popular names will crop up. You don’t need to concern yourself with what’s popular right now, unless you’ve put an infant into your story. Think of the age of your main character, then do a little research and see what was in style then. Back in the 1920’s, names like Ethel and Hazel and Blanche, were sensual or sexy names, for a young woman. Now days, (to me at least) names like that bring up images of grandparents and the elderly.

The research holds its importance in regards to period novels as well. You wouldn’t very well drop a Harold into a prehistoric novel, give him a club and expect your readers to believe it. It’d be best to choose a simple name which people would associate with the grunting sounds cave men supposedly made, like Grun, or Agon, or anything similar and simple, think no more than four letters, preferably two vowels.

Say your character is the epitome of innocence, a great name for a girl would be Hope, Charity, or Heaven. If you’re looking for a more sensual female name, Amber, Candace, or (ironically) Chastity.

Ironic names are useful as well. For example, I heard of a young woman (close to my age) named Chastity, who was a slut. I found it hilarious that her parents would unknowingly give her such a wholesome and sweet name, when she turned out quite the opposite. But be careful when using ironic names, you don’t want to confuse your readers with deep meanings to names they don’t understand. Chose something that has a definition of its own as a word, rather than a name with religious meaning or a derivative widely unknown. Try Justice for a woman on the run, or Grace for a clutz.

Another plethora of name ideas would be the news paper, and the real world around you. Say you’ve got a friend whose name you love, rather than offending her and using both her first and last, combine her first name with a different last name, or put your own twist on the spelling of it so it reads a little differently. But, please, for your sake, refrain from using names (both first and last) that you know to belong to a real person. Failing to do so could easily result in a law suit or at least hurt feelings.

Names are an important aspect of how your readers feel about the character. Think of naming your characters like setting the tone and mood for your story. There are certain names that give the reader an instant sense of who the character is. Carefully consider your character’s personality type before naming them. And of course you can always break the rules (sometimes I think that’s the only reason we have rules in the first place: so it’d be so much fun to break them!), and make exceptions, or put your own twist on things.

I this helps someone.

Comment, if you like. What do you think about naming characters? What are some names you’ve used? What are some names you like? What are some names you avoid, and why? The best part of my day is reading the comments you all leave. =]

After three hours of cleaning Wednesday, and two hours of frustrated screaming at my printer, I’ve finally got my new-used desk put in place, my new(ish) printer set up, and my office clean and ready for maximum efficiency.

It’s freeing to clear out all the clutter and make room for my creativity to flow and grow. There’s still a bunch of stuff that needs to be sorted through and probably thrown out, in my office, but at least my desk and the area around it is organized and clean.

The used desk I bought (for only $26 at the local re-store) is oddly comfortable, already, and I think besides it being probably the best deal I will ever see on such a nice desk, it’s where I will hopefully spend hours and hours typing away and finishing my novel.

What novel? You may ask.

I’ve mentioned it before, in my post about creating monsters. Titled Lashine, I have around a hundred and thirty pages done, and am nearing the end. Yet I find it almost impossible to bring myself to finish it. I started the novel probably close to two years ago. Six to eight months of that time it has been just sitting in the memory on my computer (and a flash drive, remember the importance of backing up?), collecting dust, feeling lonely, and wondering if it will ever be whole.

Recently I’ve been under more pressure to finish Lashine. My Mom asked if I’d written the ending yet, and when I told her I hadn’t, she asked why not. I thought about it, and replied that I don’t know how I want it to end (not that I have a whole lot of control over it because at this point my characters are so strong they are doing things I hadn’t expected, which should make it easier to finish, but for some reason it’s just making it harder for me). Besides that, my brother-in-law, has been asking me every time he comes over if my novel is done yet and when am I going to sell it and get rich and share my wealth with everyone. While I know his expectations are beyond unrealistic (only because he is ignorant to the ways of publication and how hard it is to get a damn manuscript accepted), his (and my Mom’s) point is always clear and the same. “Why haven’t you finished your novel already?”

It’s become something of a nightmare phrase to me. “Why haven’t you finished your novel already?” I hear it all the time now. In my head, mostly, and when I pass a stranger on the street, it seems their eyes scream the same question. I know, it sounds like madness, but rather it’s my sub-conscious mind telling me that I can’t put it off much longer. Everywhere I look, I am reminded of it, of my own constantly preoccupied nature, and my willingness to procrastinate. It’s really starting to get to me, eat at me, and I do stop occasionally to wonder why I am doing this to myself.

I fear I’ve already lost the flow and ambition I once had to write that particular story. But does that mean I cannot finish it? Of course not.

This is largely what my getting organized is rooted in. I feel that now, with less clutter, and more ambition, I can and absolutely will bring myself to finish all my half-done stories, novels, etc. (Well, maybe not all, because looking back, some of them really are crap and should be left in the deep, dark, dusty files of my laptop.)

The funny thing is, I’ve done this before. I may have mentioned a teen novel about a young woman who fights to take control of her own life, and seek revenge, that I’ve written. I’m not particularly happy with. It was my first attempt at writing a novel, and the first large project I started on. I had most of the story written, and as I neared the end, I found myself losing momentum. I didnt’ stop to think why, or how it happened, but looking back, I think I became disheartened to see that soon my work would be over, and I would have the laborious task of beginning a new project (which as some of you know is A LOT of work when it comes to a novel, with research and building characters and chosing settings etc.). There was a period of time when I didn’t write at all. My novel sat, collecting dust, and life went on. Then, during a family crisis, I found I needed an outlet. I chose writing because it just felt so expressive. I wrote one short story and put my whole heart and soul into it (it was just a writing exercise in the beginning, but turned into so much more). Looking back at that short story, I can see through the story line to the root of the feelings that kept me writing it. The hardship I was going through at the time has so many correlations to the story, and the underlying issues in my psyche. Writing that story helped me to voice the feelings I couldn’t comprehend or speak aloud. This would  probablymake a lot more sense if I told you what happened, but I respect privacy too much for that. Suffice to say, it was difficult for everyone involved and everyone close to everyone involved, and I am so grateful we made it through. Any way, back to the point of the novel. The short story got me going on writing again. I wrote more and more short stories, and edited and re-edited them. Finally I went back to my teen novel, and found that I’d developed my writing skills to a point where it would be not only easy but enjoyable to finish the story. And that’s just what I did.

In the time since, I’ve decided not to try selling my first completed novel. While the storyline is decent-ish, I suppose, it took me so long to finish it, that when I read through the whole thing, I can recognize the different tones and voices I’d used trying to get it to feel just right. Therefore, it is all over the place. I’ve gone through and spell checked and done some editing, but none of it seems to help the fact that it’s just all over the place. Maybe one day I’ll pull it out and try re-writing it, but for now, it’s staying as it is, where it is.

Basically, my first attempt at a novel turned out somewhat embarrassing. However, I am re-energized and ready to finish my second novel. For the time being, I have decided I will send out the few short stories that I feel are ready for publication, and work on Lashine.

I’ll let you all know when I finish it. Hopefully this time it will be something I can be proud of, and send out to publishers.